The history of surgical education in the United States: Past, present, and future


Advocate Children's Hospital


In just over 100 years, surgical education in the United States has evolved from a disorganized practice to a refined system esteemed worldwide as one of the premier models for the training of physicians and surgeons. But in the changing environment of health care, new challenges have arisen that could warrant a reform. To design our future, we must understand our past. The present work is not intended to be a comprehensive account of the history of American surgery. Instead, it tells the abridged history of surgical education in our country: the evolution from apprenticeships to residencies; the birth of hospital-based teaching; the impact of key historical events on training; the marks left by some preeminent characters; the conception of regulatory entities that steer our education; and, finally, how our process of training surgeons might need to be refined for the continued progress of our profession. Told in chronological order in a manner that will be memorable to readers, this story weaves together the key events that explain how our current surgical training models came to be. We conclude with a timely invitation to draw from these past lessons to redesign the future of graduate medical education, making a case for the transition to time-variable, competency-based medical education for surgical residency programs in America.

Document Type


PubMed ID